Cross-border program with Mexico prevails in court

Updated Apr 25, 2013

A U.S. appeals court has rejected arguments against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico, saying none of the arguments brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association were persuasive enough show that the program violates any statutes or regulations.

The same court, however, will hear a separate challenge to the federal program May 6.

Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for the FMCSA, responded to the April 19 ruling against the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and International Brotherhood of Teamsters:

“The District of Columbia Circuit Court’s decision upholds the FMCSA’s cross-border pilot program, finding that we apply the same rigorous safety standards under the program that we require of all U.S. carriers,” DeBruyne said. “We remain committed to the success of the pilot program and will continue to work with everyone involved to ensure it is carried out safely.”

U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh issued the opinion behalf of the three-judge panel who heard the case Dec. 6. “The drivers association advances seven distinct arguments that the pilot program violates various statutes and regulations,” Kavanaugh wrote. “We find none to be persuasive.”

OOIDA’s assertions included that the program violates federal pilot program rules because it argued that it does not require safety standards equal to the United States.

“Federal statutes, not the pilot program, enable Mexico-domiciled truckers to use their commercial drivers’ licenses, and the pilot program complies with applicable U.S. drug testing regulations,” Kavanaugh wrote.” And the agency reasonably concluded that those requirements are designed to achieve an equivalent level of safety.”

The Teamsters’ case included that program lacks sufficient participation to yield statistically valid findings regarding safety. As of last week, the program’s had 22 drivers from ten participating Mexican carriers.

The court stated the FMCSA does not limit participation nor can it control how many applications it receives. “The agency has therefore met its obligation to include a sufficient number of participants so as to yield valid results,” Kavanaugh stated.

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The Teamsters stated it is reviewing options with its attorneys regarding the ruling.

The union also noted the Department of Transportation Inspector General’s August report stated that he program risked its goal of “providing an adequate and representative sample of Mexico-domiciled carriers and inspections necessary to assess the impact on motor carrier safety.”

Next month, OOIDA will argue a related case in this court, but before a different panel of judges. A year ago, the FMCSA established the National Registry of Medical Examiners, which requires CDL holders have a current medical certificate issued by a registry examiner.

The association believes the agency has erred by allowing program participants to operate in the United States without a current medical certificate issued by a registry examiner.

In March 2009, Congress terminated funding for an earlier cross-border trucking program.

The following month, a federal appeals court dismissed litigation against the program from OOIDA, Teamsters, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Environmental Law and Auto Truck Drivers Local No. 70. Congress’ termination of the program made it impossible for judges to rule on the program nor could they evaluate future program that did not yet exist, the court stated.